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Collaborative research to improve health and care

18 April 2018

Scientists are collaborating with NHS and public health staff to ensure that research evidence is used effectively to improve public health and patient outcomes. Professor Jenny Donovan, NIHR CLAHRC West Director, and Lara Edwards, NIHR CLAHRC West Manager, explain why collaboration is so important and offer some examples of the benefits it brings.

Collaboration has increasingly become the watchword to guide research and health improvement. Collaboration is at the heart of what we do in the CLAHRC – the clue is in the first word of the acronym given to us by our funding body, the National Institute for Health Research. We are the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West (NIHR CLAHRC West). 

We are part of a complex landscape of research and healthcare organisations with an array of inscrutable acronyms: CRN, BHP, AHSN, CCG, PHWE, STP, BRC (definitions below), all of which are united in a commitment to improve the health of the population and the delivery of health and social care. CLAHRC West’s particular focus is on encouraging the use of research evidence.

We work collaboratively with patients and members of the public, providers of NHS services, NHS commissioners, universities, local authorities, charities and third sector organisations, to make research evidence more accessible so that it can be used to improve health and care. We have highlighted some examples of our research below.

Preventing disabilities in babies

Babies born too early have a higher risk of dying in the first weeks of life than babies born at full term.

Those who survive often have damage including cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or physical disabilities. Magnesium sulphate, used as a neuroprotective factor in pre-term birth, can prevent this damage.

Working with the West of England Academic Health Science Network, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and hospitals across the country, we investigated whether an information support package introduced into maternity units would empower midwives and increase the use of magnesium sulphate recommended by NICE.

The findings from the first study in a small number of maternity units indicated that the package had been helpful in increasing the use of the drug in the short term.

We are now working with the same groups in a larger study for a longer period to refine the package and evaluate its use, funded by the Health Foundation. 

Developing skills in research evidence

CLAHRC West also promotes the development of skills in understanding, using and producing research evidence for the health, public health and commissioning workforce, and patients and members of the public.

We do this through running courses, funding fellowships, offering training bursaries and collating other training opportunities in the region.

Since 2014, we have run 44 training events and trained over 500 people. 

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